How are things going for you right now? Are you hanging in there? I am trying to keep myself busy because if I stay busy, I don’t have time to worry about things. And I found something that keeps my mind very busy, playing in the arena with Plezant. And one way to keep things fun and new for the both of us is to work with ground poles. So I came up with 10 ground pole exercises to work on at home.
Ground poles are so much fun to work with. You can make loads of different patterns to work over which give you something fun to do in the arena, while staying relatively safe because you aren’t going over full size jumps.
It’s also more affordable to make your own ground poles (aka jump rails) than building the entire jump. And you can get as creative as you want with the poles, as far as painting them, and then if you want you can use them as jump rails too.
But the painting is a topic for another post. How about we get to the ground pole exercises shall we?
10 Ground Pole Exercises
When coming up with different exercises, I will look at different jump courses for ideas. If you have gone to any horse shows, you will have seen how they have the courses posted at the gate of the course.
If you take a picture of the course with your phone, you can replicate the course, at home, with ground poles. This is a great way to practice a course without putting extra jumps on your horse.
Not only can this help you practice the course, but it can also help get your mind in memorization mode. And if you don’t have any photos of jump courses on your phone, you can do a google search and find a ton of them.
There are 12 right there for you! Google can provide you with an endless supply of exercises.
A Long Line of Poles
The first and easiest exercise is to take all of the poles you have, and set them down the center of your arena, or riding area. This works best if you have a lot of poles. But even if you have 4 or 5 it can be a good exercise.
I set these up as trot poles. So I take into consideration my horse’s size. Plezant is 16.2, so I space the poles at about 4 1/2 feet apart. If you were to set up canter poles, they need to be 9 to 12 feet apart. But I find this to be a fun and bouncy exercises at the trot, So I have spaced them 4 1/2 feet apart which I guesstimate by stepping about 5 foot steps between each pole placement.
And you don’t just have to go down the line of poles. You can also do changes of direction and go length wise with the poles, and weave in and out of them. Which Frisby is showing you how to do it in the photo. For this exercise, I used 13 poles.
The Stick Man
Or I could call this the headless stick man. But it does look like a stick figure person don’t you think? It’s like he is jumping in the air and saying….”yay!” Without his head.
But this is a fun pattern to set up using 5 poles. You can trot through this, and depending on how you set up the arms and legs, you could use it as a canter exercise too. You can start by crossing the rail, and then circle to the left, going over the ‘arms and legs’ and then come back over the center, and then go to the right repeating the exercise.
Now I really like this exercise. And I have set up the box using soft poles that I made a couple of years ago. And I am happy to report, these poles have lasted a long time.
I wrote a blog post showing you how I did it. And making your own soft poles is a LOT more affordable than buying them. And they add an extra tool for you to work with your horse.
Building the box exercise is easy. You simply set up your poles to look like a box. Then you can trot in and out of the box, or go at a diagonal through the box. Or even walk or trot into the box and have your horse halt while inside.
Well, it kind of looks like a fish right? This exercise takes a few more ground poles, 8 to be exact. But there are so many different things you can do with this! Can you see the possibilities?
I love this set up. And like the one before, it does require a lot of poles. 11 to be exact. But what you do is set up two boxes with three trot poles set in between .
Just like the previous exercise, there are a lot of different things you can do with this. You can go down the center, and then circle to the left and bounce through the box. Then when you come out, circle to the right and go through the other box.
The Hunter Course
This is a bunch of poles set up to resemble a hunter course. And where you would have an oxer, you could add an extra rail. If you did this, you would be adding an additional 4 poles to your course of 8, meaning you would need 11 poles total.
But talk about having a wonderful exercise for you and your horse. Not only can you work on your memorization and course building skills, but you can work on the flexibility of your horse.
With the poles being set up like a course, you can either trot or canter through your ‘course’.
Half Circle Fan
This is another fun exercise. Notice how I say that a lot? That’s because these are so much fun! For this exercise you will need 7 poles. And you will be setting them up on half of a circle.
I find it easiest to have a tape measure when setting this exercise. At the base of your fan, each of the poles will be set at 2 feet apart. then the midway point will move out to 4 feet apart, and the farthest end of the pole will be about 6 feet apart.
This give you the flexibility to approach the exercise at different levels to either shorten the stride, or lengthen, however you see fit.
The Plus Sign
Even though this is a simple exercise to set up, don’t underestimate how useful it is.
You need 4 poles for this exercise. And you set them up to resemble a plus sign, or a giant ‘X’. Then you can do circles around the poles. Or you could do a cloverleaf like pattern around each of the poles. So basically 4 circles weaving around the poles.
And that may sound easy, but trust me, it can be difficult! This can help you to really focus on your aids and what you are asking of your horse. It will help you learn to rate the speed of each gate as you plan how you are going to go through the poles.
The Giant ‘W’
This exercise is set up like a giant W, hence the name. You could also call it a zig-zag. But this can be set up with 4 poles. And I would do this in an open area, because the goal is to do circles after crossing each of the poles.
And you can also go down the center of the poles, or trot a straight line while going down the poles.
10 Ground Pole Exercises
And there you have it, 10 different exercises (a lot more if you count the first photo of 12) that you can work with your horse. That’s a lot right? Just imagine if you dedicated just one ride a week to working over ground poles with your horse.
And ground pole exercises have greater benefits than just giving you something new to do with your horse. Although, that is a great reason alone to practice these exercises.